Repot recently purchased rubber plant
Q: I recently received the rubber plant in the photo and am unsure how to care for it. The six-inch diameter pot seems small and the plant is losing some bottom leaves. It's in a bright room with early morning sun. Can you help with suggestions for helping the plant thrive? — L. McGauvran, Langdon, N.D.
A: An east window will be ideal, but the pot does seem small for the plant's size. Choose a pot that's one or two inches larger in diameter. It's always best to repot plants gradually, rather than going too large too soon, causing plants to wallow in large soil volumes.
Miracle Gro Potting Mix is a good choice, and easy to find. Before you repot, dispose of the dried leaves visible on the soil surface, as they're often a source of hidden pests like nearly invisible spider mites.
Before repotting, gently wash off the large leaves, both upper surface and undersides, at the kitchen sink with the faucet's rinsing attachment, or in the bathtub. Rinsing the leaves will reduce insects that might be lurking when new plants are brought into the home. Spider mites and aphids are common pest that often go unnoticed until populations balloon.
Q: My mom was given a tulip plant in a pot for Easter. It has bloomed nicely. Now the petals are falling off. What do we do with it now? We've never had one in a pot before. — Julie Nelson, Fargo.
A: Spring-flowering potted bulbs like tulips, hyacinths and daffodils can be saved for planting into perennial beds. Saving potted bulbs is not always successful, but worth a try, with little to lose.
For best results, keep the potted tulips in a sunny, but cool window. While plants are blooming and leaves are healthy, fertilize weekly with water-soluble fertilizer. Keep soil moist, drying just slightly between waterings. Fertilizer and sun are vital to rebuild the bulbs' strength if you'd like to add them to outdoor flowerbeds.
When leaves begin to turn yellow in several weeks, gradually decrease watering. When leaves turn brown and paper-dry, cut off foliage, remove bulbs from pot, shake off soil and store in a brown paper bag in a dark location, until fall.
In September, plant the dormant bulbs in a flowerbed, and if they re-energized themselves sufficiently, they'll grow and bloom the following spring.
Q: We are building a new house and I would like to take some of my favorite shrubs, berry bushes and vines with me, but the area to replant won't be ready for a month. Should I dig them up and keep in pots until I'm ready to plant them or leave them in the ground? — Roswitha Valdez, Colorado Spring, Colo.
A: Dig the plants soon, preferably while they're still dormant, and pot up for temporary holding until the new location is ready. Digging and moving shrubs while actively growing is less successful. To compensate for root loss, prune tops back by about half when digging and potting.